If you’ve perused YouTube in search of drum-related videos, you’ve likely stumbled upon one of Harry Miree’s informative and humorous offerings. Occasionally instructional but mostly providing insight into the business of making music, Miree never ceases to enlighten and entertain his viewers as he explores topics from understanding sideman financials and endorsements to alternatives to the cajon and setting up open-handed. Miree graduated from Berklee College of Music when he was twenty-five. While he was at Berklee, his band Boom City got a record deal, which required extensive touring. “I had to make a choice,” Harry says. “Do I travel the world, or do I stay and get a college degree? I ran this by my professor Rod Morgenstein. He answered, ‘Dude, we’ll be here if you decide to come back…go!’ I went and—big surprise—the band went down in flames. I returned to college with my head hung low, graduated as the official class geezer of 2013, and rolled straight to Nashville.”
In a short period of time, Miree was a regular on the country music scene, touring with Brinley Addington, Joey Hyde, Levi Hummon, Clare Bowen of the hit TV show Nashville, Ryan Follese, and LoCash. We met up with Miree at his home studio in Nashville to dig into a variety of topics, beginning with his unexpected success as a YouTube personality.
MD: How did the idea to start your YouTube channel come about?
Harry: This ties in to the very first interaction I had in Nashville. I was talking to the cashier at the first coffeehouse I found, and I remember him saying, “Yep, I’m a drummer. I moved here from Chicago a few years ago, but I’m still looking for a gig.” I asked him, “Is there somewhere I can go to hear your playing?” He gave me some non-answer, like, “Well, I’m on this demo on this one guy’s Facebook page, but it was recorded on an iPhone and my drumheads were old.” The more I met fellow drummers in Nashville, the more I’d hear some version of that spiel. I promised myself I’d never be that dude. I decided to make a point to define what it sounds, feels, and looks like when Harry Miree plays the drums and make it easy to find on the Internet. I then paid a friend $30 to point a camera at my drumming for five minutes. I liked [the result], so I kept it going, and that decision has paid off every day.
MD: How do you decide on video content?
Harry: Originally I intended my channel to be 90-percent playing and 10-percent talking, but I’ve noticed that my most viewed videos are the ones of me yapping away. It turns out there’s very little interest in watching me wail away on a bunch of cover songs. That was an unexpected message from my audience. So now I try to balance the talking and the playing. And sometimes I’ll just talk.
MD: Your videos are entertaining and informative. What’s your process?
Harry: Each video is scripted, so I know exactly where each cut is going to happen. No clip is longer than about twelve seconds. I have a remote clicker in my hand that operates the camera. I might start off saying, “Dudes, something crossed my mind today,” and I’ll click the camera off and think, Can I do that better? If so, I’ll redo it. I’ll refer back to Evernote, which is where my scripts live, to see the next line, which might be, “Let’s go into this recording studio to see if we can make tens and tens of dollars!” All told, it takes about four hours to shoot what will ultimately be a twelve-minute video. But keeping each thought to a sentence or less makes the editing so much easier. Then all that’s left is the technical work of editing.
MD: How long does it take to edit a video?
Harry: I’m glad the answer to this has changed over the years—I shudder thinking about my video-making pace in 2014. The first video I ever made that got some real visibility was called “5 Tips for Drumming Like Carter Beauford.” I made that video in less than a day. I woke up at 10 A.M., scrambled for ideas until 11, outlined the Beauford idea until 1, shot the drumming snippets until 3, shot the talking snippets until 7, ate Tostitos while editing until 2 in the morning, and finally uploaded and passed out on my desk at 4.
Cramming videos at that pace on top of touring made me unhealthy and unhappy. So now I take my time. When I shot “The True Financial Life of a Side Musician,” I gave myself a day to script it, a day to shoot it, a day to edit the talking, a day to massage the audio, and a day to get the pop-up visuals just right. On some level, ensure quality without destroying my personal sanity while also playing 130-plus shows a year.
MD: How do you decide what topics to cover?
Harry: I think I’ve got a fifty-year backlog of topics by now, so I’m constantly curating the top ten based on what’s most exciting to me. The topics are reflections on my life as a drummer and whatever’s actively speaking to me in my professional life that I can pull back the curtain on.
At the time I made the cajon video, the bogus concept of forcing drum machine music onto cajons was nagging at my brain the most. Now that I’m starting to do more and more session work, I’ve become fascinated by this insider culture of the Nashville recording studios, so that topic’s starting to rise on my list. Basically I’m just asking myself: Is there curiosity about a given topic, and do I have a point of view about it? If yes, then I’ve got to make it happen.
MD: What topics can we expect next?
Harry: I’m psyched about a few things right now. One is a discussion on how being savvy with electronics has become essential to drumming. Modern gigs that don’t require Ableton Live or at least a sampler are pretty rare in my neck of the woods. I have another video in the making about how I chart music. I’m also planning a video about my auditioning experiences here in Nashville. There’s a funny culture to that world, too.
MD: How’d you pick this particular house and drum room?
Miree: Buying a house in Nashville felt like having an extra full-time job for the six months it took me to find the right place. Good houses move really quickly here. Aside from the pressures of the insane market, I had specific drumming stipulations. No loading up or down stairs. No tight spaces that would make filming cumbersome. No low ceilings that would hinder my lighting options. And no duplexes.
When I finally walked into the bonus room of this house in the West End of Nashville, I knew it was the one. This room spoils me with direct driveway access, high ceilings, non-parallel surfaces, lots of depth for camera and recording equipment, and even an amusing history of having previously housed the bands Delta Saints and Sol Cat. As an added bonus, it’s changed my life to be able to rent out some of the bedrooms to tenants so I know I have some dough coming in whether the gig side of my life is feast or famine.
MD: Any crucial gear?
Harry: I keep the gear down to the bare essentials, so there’s nothing exceptional in terms of microphones, monitors, interface, and lights. My room’s persona kicks in when you look at how that gear is implemented. For example, there are no mic stands anywhere. Thanks to inspiration from Brad Paisley’s drummer, Ben Sesar, whose overheads are mounted to an exposed pipe coming out of a wall, I mounted a Pearl rack bar to my wall so the overhead mics can hang over my drums without taking up floor space. All the close mics are mounted directly to my drums or hardware rack. My soft boxes hang from pantographs in the ceiling. I also took some inspiration from the drum room of O.A.R.’s Chris Culos and used MIO acoustic tiles to unify the look and sound of my walls. Keeping the gear footprint small like that gives the room a minimalist feel that I totally love.
Miree’s Studio Gear
Drums: Pearl Masterworks 6-ply birch drumset in Arctic White finish with gold hardware (5×13 and 4×10 snares, 10×10, 10×12, 10×14, and 16×16 toms, 18×22 bass drum)
Hardware and Percussion: Pearl ICON rack, Demon Drive and Eliminator pedals, 1030 series stands, and Horacio Hernandez signature cowbells
Drumheads: Evans Heavyweight and EC Dot snare batters and Orchestral 300 snare bottoms, UV1 tom batters and Resonant Black tom bottoms, and EMAD Coated bass drum batter
Cymbals: Meinl Byzance, including 14″ Spectrum hi-hats, 22″ Relic ride, 18″ Sand Medium crash, 18″ Sand Thin crash, 16″ Extra Dry China stacked on an 18″ Dark China, 10″ Trash splash stacked on a 12″ Dark splash, 10″ Dual splash, 10″ Vintage splash, and 22″ Traditional China
Microphones: Shure Beta 56A on main snare, SM57 on auxiliary snare and cowbells, Beta 98AMP on toms, Beta 181C on hi-hats, SM81 overheads, and Beta 52A and Beta 91A mounted inside the bass drum on a Kelly SHU suspension system
Recording Rig: PreSonus StudioLive 16.4.2 console, Logic Pro X software, and Yamaha HS8 monitors